Why Kids Need Space Maintainers
Have you ever heard of space maintainers? These popular kids’ dental appliances are used to maintain proper bite alignment after children accidentally lose baby teeth earlier than expected, either due to extraction necessary due to decay or a dental injury.
If your child has lost one or more baby teeth sooner than when they would have naturally, their dentist may recommend space maintainers to fill the gaps.
What is a space maintainer and why are they used?
Space maintainers are deceptively simple oral appliances that yield incredible advantages for children who’ve experienced premature tooth loss.
The average space maintainer is a fixed oral appliance, meaning it’s semi-permanent and can only be removed by a dentist. They come in a few different designs. For a single missing tooth, the “crown and loop” space maintainer is often used. Your child’s dentist will place a stainless steel band or crown over a neighboring tooth and insert a smooth stainless steel loop to bridge the gap. This provides enough pressure to keep the teeth from shifting while you and your child wait for the adult tooth to erupt.
When a child has experienced premature tooth loss of one or more of their baby teeth, a dentist will evaluate your child’s smile. If they determine that there’s an extended time before the adult tooth is due to erupt, they’ll recommend a space maintainer.
What are the benefits of space maintainers?
Space maintainers have a number of advantages for kids. Since oral health and bite alignment directly affect overall health, many parents are surprised to find that space maintainer benefits go beyond the teeth themselves.
Opting for space maintainers after premature tooth loss has these benefits for your child.
1. Mitigates Future Orthodontic Care
Space maintainers keep neighboring teeth in proper alignment until the adult tooth emerges. They prevent teeth from shifting, turning, and changing position, all of which could cause the need for extensive orthodontic care, such as braces. Space maintainers can either prevent future orthodontic care or, if braces are still needed, allow for faster results from treatment.
2. Improves Nutrition Absorption
Premature tooth loss and subsequent shifting and crowding isn’t just an aesthetic issue. A misaligned bite also makes it more difficult to properly chew food. Your child may have a difficult time chewing thoroughly or find it painful to chew due to teeth hitting one another. Space maintainers keep the teeth in alignment, which in turn ensures your child can chew easily, thoroughly, and receive maximum nutrition from their diet.
3. Allows Free, Natural Speech
Similar to chewing, speaking easily is also dependent on your child’s bite alignment for the very same reasons. A simple space maintainer keeps teeth well-aligned and won’t negatively impact your child’s ability to speak.
4. Boosts Self-Confidence
Kids can become self-conscious of how their smile looks at a surprisingly young age. While a space maintainer doesn’t replace the appearance of a tooth, it does have the long-term benefit of helping your child’s growing smile remain as straight as possible. Receiving a space maintainer now will pay off as your child turns into a teen and is able to feel confident in their straight smile.
5. Protects Overall Oral Health
Straight teeth with normal gaps aren’t just attractive, they’re also healthier. Straight teeth have fewer crevices for bacteria to hide in, meaning a reduced chance of cavities. Space maintainers are a simple way of ensuring your child is able to achieve optimal oral health at a young age, and maintain it long term.
What happens if space maintainers aren’t used?
Pediatric dentists are highly trained and experienced in children’s dental development. A great dentist will only recommend a space maintainer if they’ve determined that a child is at risk of developing oral problems. Skipping a space maintainer or taking the “wait and see” approach could cause orthodontic issues in the future.
Some examples of what might happen without a space maintainer include future crowding, impacted adult teeth, cross- or overbites, and abnormal gap size. This can go on to affect chewing and speaking, and lead to bruxism or a TMJ disorder. If these problems do occur, your child will likely need more intensive orthodontic care that takes more time and involves greater expense.
How do I know if my child needs a space maintainer?
The only way to know for certain if your child needs a space maintainer is through an examination by an experienced pediatric dentist.
Kids develop at different paces, and that includes how quickly their smiles grow and change. You can compare your child’s smile to a typical teeth eruption chart like this one to get an idea of how much time there might be between the premature loss of the tooth and when they might get their adult tooth.
That being said, kids naturally lose baby teeth and gain adult teeth at very different paces. This is why a dentist will need to take X-rays to see the underlying development of your child’s teeth.
Book a consultation with your child’s pediatric dentist today.
If you think your child might benefit from a space maintainer, all you need to do is schedule a consultation to learn more. Your child’s pediatric dentist will take X-rays, examine your child’s smile, and determine if a space maintainer is recommended based on your child’s teeth development.
The We Make Kids Smile team provides complete dental care services for kids in Prince Frederick and Waldorf, MD. Schedule a visit today by calling your preferred location or requesting an appointment online.